Mound Builders: Cahokia Settlement

At the high point of its development Cahokia was the largest urban center north of the great Mesoamerican cities in Mexico and Central America. Although it was home to only about 1,000 people before c. 1050, its population grew rapidly after that date. According to a 2007 study in Quaternary Science Reviews, “Between AD 1050 and 1100, Cahokia’s population increased from between 1400 and 2800 people to between 10,200 and 15,300 people” an estimate that applies only to a 1.8 km2 high density central occupation area. Archaeologists estimate the city’s population at between 6,000 and 40,000 at its peak, with more people living in outlying farming villages that supplied the main urban center. In the early 21st century, new residential areas were found to the west of Cahokia as a result of archeological excavations, increasing estimates of area population. If the highest population estimates are correct, Cahokia was larger than any subsequent city in the United States until the 1780s, when Philadelphia’s population grew beyond 40,000.

The short description that follows is from the Smithsonian.
— Orly




Along the Mississippi river, and especially as we approach the Gulf, these regular structures increase both in number and magnitude. In Kentucky they are more frequent than in the States north of the Ohio river; and in Tennessee and Mississippi they are still more abundant. Some of the largest, however, occur in pretty high latitudes. The great mound at Cahokia, Illinois, is one of the most remarkable. It has often been described, and all accounts concur in respect to its great size. The following approximate plan will serve to give an idea of its general outline. It is of course much rounded, and its regularity to a great degree destroyed, by the storms and changes of centuries; its original plan is, however, represented to be still sufficiently obvious. The form of the mound is that of a parallelogram, seven hundred feet long by five hundred wide at the base. It is ninety feet in height. Upon one side is a broad apron or terrace, which is reached by a graded ascent. At the time this mound was occupied by the monks of La Trappe, the terrace was used as a garden. It is one hundred and sixty feet wide and three hundred and fifty long; the summit or highest part of the mound (A) measures two hundred feet in width by four hundred and fifty in length. Here formerly stood a broad, low mound, which was disturbed in preparing the foundations of a dwelling house. Within it were found human bones, and various implements of stone and pottery, probably belonging to a recent deposit. This mound covers not far from eight acres of ground, and the area of its level summit is about five acres. Its solid contents may be roughly estimated at twenty millions of cubic feet.

Cahokia Centre Reconstruction

Cahokia Centre Reconstruction

Cahokia Monument  

Cahokia Monument



Mound Builders: Speculations

New Holland: Letter of Reverend Jonas Michaelius, 1628